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Missouri Quail and Pheasant 
Population Status Report 




Missouri Department of Conservation 

Prepared by: Beth Emmerich, Resource Science Division, Max Alleger, Wildlife Division 
and Bill White, Private Lands Division 



Weather Summary 

The winter of 2011-2012 brought unseasonably warm temperatures and lower than normal precipitation to the 
Midwest. All regions of Missouri had very low amounts of snowfall this winter. Snowfall totals ranged from 0.5 inch in 
the Ozark region to 10.3 inches in the Northeast region. Mild winter weather and below normal snowfall resulted in 
higher overwinter survival for bobwhite. The mild winter gave way to an early spring, with March 2012 becoming the 
warmest on record for Missouri with an average temperature of 57.7°F. 

Summer was characterized by hot, dry weather, resulting in drought conditions across the entire state, with the 
Southeast region being the driest. The entire Midwest experienced the warmest and driest March-August period and 
the fourth most severe drought measured by the Palmer Z index, behind 1936, 1934 and 1988. In fact, the driest region 
(the Mississippi Lowlands) had the highest increase in quail numbers in 2012. This is likely due to areas idled from 
production due to flooding in 2011. The four consecutive years (2008-2011) of wet, cool springs were harder on quail 
nesting than one extremely dry summer. Table 1 lists winter snowfall and spring/summer rainfall averages and 
departures from normal by MDC administrative region. A map of MDC administrative regions is shown in Figure 1. 



Table 1. Missouri 2011-2012 winter snowfall and spring/summer rainfall summary. 



MDC Administrative Regions 1 



NE NW C KC STL OZ SE SW 



Winter 2 2011-2012 snowfall (inches) 10.3 5.7 6.6 2.7 4.0 0.5 3.8 2.8 

Departure 3 from normal (inches) -15.5 -18.3 -18.8 -11.9 -9.8 -1.5 -10.6 -16.7 

Spring/Summer 4 rainfall (inches) 10.4 13.7 15.7 8.6 11.5 10.9 9.1 13.4 

Departure from normal (inches) -10.9 -8.1 -4.9 -12.2 -9.3 -9.1 -11.6 -7.5 



1 Map of MDC Administrative regions shown in Figure 1. 
Winter snowfall is the average total for the region from November 1, 2011 through March 31, 2012. 

3 Departure calculated from 1971-2000 norms. 

4 Spring/summer rainfall is the average total for the region from April 1 through August 31, 2012. 



2 1 M DC Quail and Pheasant Status Report 2012 




Figure 1. MDC Administrative Regions 



Northeast Region (NE) 



Northwest Region (NW 



Kansas City Region (KC) 



Southwest Region (SW) 




St. Louis Region (STL) 



outheast Region (SE) 



Quail Abundance 

Conservation Agents conducted roadside counts of bobwhite quail 

from August 1-15 in 109 of Missouri's 114 counties. Clay, Jackson, 

St. Louis and St. Charles counties are not included because they are 

high-density urban areas near Kansas City and St. Louis. Surveyors 

count the number of quail observed while driving < 20 miles per 

hour along permanent 30-mile gravel road routes. Participants are 

instructed to conduct counts beginning at sunrise on clear, dewy 

mornings with light winds to increase chances that bobwhites will 

be near roadsides. This year drought conditions led to less than 

ideal conditions for conducting the surveys. These observations are 

used to provide an index of quail abundance across the landscape. Because only a small portion of each county is 

sampled, the index best represents quail population trends at very large scales, such as statewide and zoogeographic 

region. The roadside survey routes are located almost entirely through private land, so the quail index is a reflection of 

conditions on Missouri's private lands. 

This year's statewide index of 1.2 quail per 30-mile route is 16% below last year's index of 1.4. This is 52% below the 5- 
year average (2007-2011) and 60% below the 10-year average (2002-2011) (Table 2). Production appeared to be low 
this year at the time of the survey with the statewide average chick count at 0.3 chicks per route which was 50% lower 
than last year (0.6). The number of chicks counted on this year's route may have appeared low due to early nesting. 
Chicks grow to adult size in about 15 weeks, so early hatched chicks would have been close to adult size by the time of 




3 I M DC Quail and Pheasant Status Report 2012 




the survey. Total quail counts were up in one-half of the zoogeographic regions and down in the others. Counts were 
highest in the Western Ozark Border and Ozark Plateau (2.0 quail per route), followed by the Mississippi Lowlands (1.6 
quail per route). Counts were lowest in the Northwest Prairie (0.3 quail per route), the Western Prairie and the 
Northern and Eastern Ozark Border (0.6 quail per route). The statewide long-term trend (1983-2012) is shown in Figure 
2. Average numbers of quail observed per 30-mile route in 2012 by zoogeographic region are shown in Figure 3. Long- 
term trends by zoogeographic region are shown in Figure 4. 

Figure 2. Statewide average of number of quail counted per 30-mile route from 1983-2012. 



18.00 n 



16.00 





14.00 


LU 




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12.00 


QC 




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10.00 


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8.00 


—i 




£ 


6.00 


o 




i- 


4.00 



2.00 



0.00 




1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 



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YEAR 



4 I M DC Quail and Pheasant Status Report 2012 




Table 2. Average number of quail counted per 30-mile route by Conservation Agents along 109 routes during August 1- 
15, 2012. 



Zoogeographic 
Region 



# of Routes 
run in 2012 



# of Quail 
Counted 2012 



# of Quail 
Counted 



% Change 
2011-2012 



Long-term 

Average 

1983-2011 



Northwest Prairie 11 



0.27 



2.38 



-88.52 



7.09 



-96.19 



Northern 
Riverbreaks 



11 



1.27 



1.20 



6.06 



7.04 



-81.96 



Northeast 
Riverbreaks 



20 



0.85 



0.90 



-5.56 



8.55 



-90.06 






Western Prairie 



12 



0.58 



2.75 



-78.79 



13.72 



-95.77 



Western Ozark 
Border 




116.67 



-67.99 



Ozark Plateau 



24 



1.96 



1.33 



46.88 



2.82 



-30.54 



Northern and 
Eastern Ozark 
Border 



12 



0.58 



1.83 



-68.18 



2.59 



-77 



.64 



Mississippi 
Lowlands 



1.57 



0.29 



450.00 



5.20 



-69.79 



Statewide 



15.72 



-81.69 




5/ A/7 DC Quail and Pheasant Status Report 2012 ^* : 



Figure 3. Average number of quail observed per 30-mile route by zoogeographic region in 2012. 



Northwestern 
Prairie 

0.27 



Northern Riverbreaks 

1.27 



Western Prairie 
0.58 



Western Ozark 
Border 

2.00 



Northeast Riverbreaks 

0.85 




Ozark Plateau 

1.96 



Northern & Eastern 
Ozark Border 

0.58 



Mississippi Lowlands 
1.57 



6 1 M DC Quail and Pheasant Status Report 2012 <4M 



Figure 4. Mean quail per 30-mile route by zoogeographic region from 1983-2012. 





1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 
NORTHWEST PRAIRIE 



2004 2007 2010 





1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 
NORTHERN RIVERBREAKS 



2007 2010 




< 

a 




-i — i — i — r 
1983 1986 



-i — i — i — i — i — i— 
1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 

NORTHEASTERN RIVERBREAKS 



i — i — i — i — i- 
2004 2007 2010 




O 



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a 




1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 2010 
WESTERN PRAIRIE 



7 1 M DC Quail and Pheasant Status Report 2012 




Figure 4 continued. Mean quail per 30-mile route by zoogeographic region from 1983-2012. 





1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 
WESTERN OZARK BORDER 



2007 2010 





1983 1986 1989 1992 



1995 1998 2001 
OZARK PLATEAU 



2004 2007 2010 




< 

a 

—i 

o 




1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 
NORTHERN AND EASTERN OZARK BORDER 



2010 





1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 
MISSISSIPPI LOWLANDS 



2007 2010 



8 1 M DC Quail and Pheasant Status Report 2012 




Ring-necked Pheasant Abundance 

The Conservation Agents' Roadside Survey measures the number 
of pheasants observed along 72 standardized 30-mile routes (a 
subset of the routes sampled for bobwhites) during August 1-15 
and provides a reliable predictor of fall pheasant harvest. The 
2012 survey showed substantial decline in Missouri's pheasant 
population. The 2012 statewide count of 0.15 pheasants per 30- 
mile route was down 49% compared to 2011, down 76% 
compared to the previous 5-year average (2007-2011), and 90% 
lower than the 10-year average (2002-2012; Table 3). By 
zoogeographic region, counts were highest in the Western Prairie 
(0.33 pheasants per 30-mile route, up from zero birds counted in 2011). Numbers also increased 50% in the Northern 
Riverbreaks, but are still considerably low at 0.14 birds per 30-mile route. Counts decreased in all other zoogeographic 
regions. 

A record low count of pheasants this year is a bit surprising due to the mild winter in 2011 and the warm, dry spring that 
should have led to ideal nesting conditions. Managers in areas occupied by pheasants noted increased crowing activity 
early in spring, relative to recent years. A potential reason for the lack of pheasants seen along roadsides in early August 
could be drought-related. Drier weather results in less ideal conditions for conducting surveys, as birds are more visible 
on heavy dew mornings. Drought conditions aside, loss of habitat continues to affect open-land species such as quail 
and pheasants. Missouri was estimated to have 122,600 acres of CRP expiring in 2011 and 377,100 in 2012. The loss of 
CRP reduces the opportunity to provide habitat in agricultural areas. 




Table 3. The number of pheasants observed per 30-mile route from August 1-15, 2012 by zoogeographic region (see 
figure 3). 



Zoogeographic 
Region 


# of Routes 
in 2012 


2012 Index 


2011 Index 


2-Year 

(2011-2012) 

% Change 


5-Year 

(2007-2011) 

% Change 


10-Year 

(2002-2011) 

% Change 


Northwest 






0.65 


-65.7% 


-78.7 


-91.0% 


Northern 
Riverbreaks 


21 


0.14 


0.10 


50.0% 


-77.6 


-89.5% 


Northeastern 
Riverbreaks 








-62.5% 




-90.5% 


Western 
Prairie 


3 


0.33 





* 


66.7 


-63.0% 


Mississippi god*** 
Lowlands 


Statewide 


72 


0.15 


0.30 


-49.1 


-76.0 


-89.9% 



^Percentage not calculated due to a zero in the numerator or denominator. 



9 1 M DC Quail and Pheasant Status Report 2012 







2012-2013 Hunting Season Regulations and Dates 

For pheasant hunting, there is a youth-only season in the North zone 

(counties north of 1-70 and the portion of St. Charles County south of I- 

70) on October 27-28, 2012. It is open to youth ages 6 through 15. 

Youth who are not hunter-education certified must hunt in the 

immediate presence of a properly licensed adult; however, the adult 

may not hunt pheasants. The regular pheasant season in the North zone 

is November 1, 2012 through January 15, 2013. The daily bag limit is 2 

and the possession bag limit is 4. The Southeast zone (Dunklin, New 

Madrid, Pemiscot and Stoddard counties) season runs from December 1- 

12, 2012. The daily bag limit is 1 and the possession bag limit is 1. 

Because pheasant harvest is limited to males, hunting has little impact on long-term population trends. 

There is also a youth-only season for quail on October 27-28, 2012. It is open to youth ages 6 through 15. Youths who 
are not hunter-education certified must hunt in the immediate presence of a properly licensed adult; however, the adult 
may not hunt quail. The regular quail season runs from November 1, 2012-January 15, 2013. The daily bag limit is 8 and 
the possession bag limit is 16. 

Public Land 

The Wildlife Division has habitat management and area maintenance responsibility for 532,000 acres on 360 
Conservation Areas (CAs). Over the past state fiscal year, Wildlife Division managed more than 20,000 acres on 19 Quail 
Emphasis Areas (QEA)s to benefit quail and grassland birds. Wildlife Division works closely with 330 permittee farmers 
on 163 Conservation Areas to achieve open land maintenance and provide ample winter food resources. 

2012 Drought Impacts 

Specific threats to wildlife and their habitats during drought conditions include wildfire, reduced grass and shrubby 
cover, reduction in both hard and soft mast production and reduced surface water availability for water-dependent 
wildlife species. Dry weather can also provide benefits to some wildlife species by improving nesting conditions for 
ground nesting birds and other small game and limiting the spread of some invasive plant species. The dry conditions 
have also allowed managers to conduct early successional management activities in areas that have been too wet during 
the previous four years. 

Crops are generally poor with some yields expected to be 75% below normal. Some soybeans did not emerge due to 
drought and a large portion of the corn crop is anticipated to be cut for silage by our permittees. Areas where milo was 
planted are doing fairly well for a drought. Cool-season hay and forage is poor, native prairie and native warm-season 
grass stands are handling the drought better, but yields are depressed. Food plots are poor across the state; however, 
late summer scattered rainfall has produced a flush of common ragweed, foxtail and other annuals, which will provide 
food resources into the winter. 

Public land managers were generally unable to conduct prescribed burns planned for this summer due to dangerous 
conditions. Some areas also halted herbicide application as the drought deepened; however, some conducted normal 
invasive species spraying all summer with no apparent negative impacts. Many managers took advantage of the dry 



10 1 M DC Quail and Pheasant Status Report 2012 






winter by increasing late winter and early spring burning and disking to set back thick vegetation. The drought helped 
suppress overly thick grasses, thus improving brood habitat overall. 

Current/Anticipated Habitat Conditions on Quail Emphasis Areas 

MDC maintains 19 Quail Emphasis Areas (QEAs) throughout the state that are managed specifically for quail (Figure 5). 
These areas can be found at the following website: http://mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/birds/upland-game- 
birds/quail-emphasis-areas . Staff conduct fall covey counts on each QEA during the month of October and these results 
were not available for this report. Preliminary manager observations from 13 QEAs are shared in the sections below. 

Current brood-rearing habitat 

QEA managers have overall rated brood-rearing habitat of quail as "Good". Ample bare ground with limited vegetation 
growth due to the drought helped maintain brooding habitat this year. Drought conditions have resulted in good nest 
success and there still seem to be adequate insects for brood-rearing. Observations indicate the intense heat did not 
directly kill eggs and the hatch was good. Most grassland QEAs report brood-rearing habitat is shorter and thinner than 
normal. Site evaluations indicate that there are plenty of insects for high protein food. 

Anticipated fall cover habitat 

The majority of QEA managers feel fall cover will be in "Good" condition. The drought has had some beneficial effect on 
vegetation in that grass stands are thinner than normal, resulting in more useable acres. 

Anticipated Number of coveys 

QEA managers rated anticipated coveys as "Fair" to "Good" across the state. Better estimates will be available when fall 
covey counts conducted in early October provide more objective information. 

Anticipated quail hunting season outlook 

Most managers agree that they anticipate a "Fair" quail hunting season. 



Review of Habitat Conditions and Quail Prospects on 13 
QEAs by Zoogeographic Region 



Mississippi Lowlands 

Crowley's Ridge CA (Stoddard County) 

Anticipated quail season: FAIR 

Manager's observations: "this season should be slightly 
better than past years due to increased production. 
Brood-rearing habitat is shorter than normal and 



11 I M DC Quail and Pheasant Status Report 2012 





thinner but there appear to be plenty of insects; it looks 
great for quail." 



Northeast Riverbreaks 

Davisdale CA (Howard County) 

Anticipated quail season: POOR 

Manager's observations: "although we have good 
brood-rearing habitat and fall cover, we have not been 
observing many broods on the area/' 



Henry Sever Lake CA (Knox County) 

Anticipated quail season: GOOD 

Manager's observations: "habitat conditions are 
excellent and ground cover is thin due to the 
drought. Dry conditions have allowed staff to do more 
management of invasive species and edge feathering 
work to improve winter cover. Even when birds are 
plentiful at Sever, they can be difficult to find because 
of the abundance of cover." 



Northern and Eastern Ozark Border 

Maintz Wildlife Preserve (Cape Girardeau County) 

Anticipated quail season: FAIR 

Manager's observations: "this season should be slightly 
better than past years due to increased production. 
Brood-rearing habitat is shorter than normal and 
thinner but there appear to be plenty of insects; it looks 
great for quail." 



Northern Riverbreaks 

Seat CA (Worth/Gentry Counties) 

Anticipated quail season: FAIR 

Manager's observations: "nesting conditions were good 
during first nest attempts and brood cover is excellent. 
Quail numbers are still rebounding from 4 years of poor 
nest success and overwinter survival in 2007-2010." 



Northwestern Prairie 

Bonanza CA (Caldwell County) 

Anticipated quail season: FAIR 

Manager's observations: "nest success and chick 
survival have been good. Significant amounts of edge 
feathering provide increased fall and winter cover." 



Bunch Hollow CA (Carroll County) 

Anticipated quail season: GOOD 

Manager's observations: "we expect hunting to be 
better than in the last 2-3 years. More coveys were 
observed this year, with sizes ranging from 15-20 
birds/covey. Fall cover should be good, with plenty of 
annual forbs and crops. Timber stand improvements, 
woodland thinning, and edge feathering will provide 
ample winter cover." 



Happy Holler CA (Andrew County) 

Anticipated quail season: GOOD 

Manager's observations: "field staff reported seeing 
more quail than in previous years. Brood-rearing 
habitat has ample bare ground. Winter cover is 
expected to be good this season as well, as there will be 
many crops left standing due to poor yields." 



12 I M DC Quail and Pheasant Status Report 201^m 




Western Prairie 

Peabody/Harmony Mission CA (Bates County) 

Anticipated quail season: FAIR 

Manager's observations: "we anticipate an increase in 
2012 due to good nesting and brood-rearing conditions, 
but we are still recovering from steady declines from 
2007-2010." 



Western Ozark Border 

Bois D'Arc CA (Greene County) 
Anticipated quail season: GOOD 

Lamine CA (Cooper/Morgan Counties) 

Anticipated quail season: POOR 

Manager's observations: "few broods were observed 
by mid-August. Plenty of males were whistling in June, 
but it remains to be seen how that translated to brood 
production. June whistling males were up 35% over 
2011, but still down 49% compared to the 7-year 
average/' 



Stockton Reservoir (Cedar/Date/Polk Counties) 
Anticipated quail season: FAIR 

Manager's observations: "the drought has resulted in 
good nest success and insects remain plentiful for 
brood-rearing. " 



Talbot CA (Lawrence County) 
Anticipated quail season: GOOD 

Manager's observations: "as a quail hunter I am excited 
about this year's prospects. However, grassland areas 
that are not native prairie or are grazed may have poor 
winter food production this year due to the drought. 
While this may not result in overwinter mortality, we 
may see reduced production next summer. Bare 
ground is abundant. Overhead cover and insect 
abundance for broods hatched June- July are also good. 
August hatched birds may have some trouble with 
insect abundance. Staff are seeing decent numbers of 
broods and quite a bit of covey mixing right now. We 
are seeing good brood and covey sizes." 



13 I M DC Quail and Pheasant Status Report 201^m 




Figure 5. Quail Emphasis Areas by zoogeographic region. 



SEAT CA 



\ HENRY SEV ER LAKE CA 



HAPPY HO LLE RCA 



"'HOMAS HILL RESERVOIR 
WHITE WA 

■AH ET STONE CREEK C A 



HARMONY MISSION LAKE CA 




STOCKTON RESERVOIR 
TALBOT CA 



CROWLEY'S RIDGE CA 



COVER PRAIRIE CA 



LAS 



14 I M DC Quail and Pheasant Status Report 2 l*m; 



Private Lands 

Private landowners are the key to improving quail habitat, since more than 93 percent of Missouri is privately owned. 
MDC private land conservationists work with more than 23,000 Missouri landowners to help them achieve their land- 
use objectives and about 17,000 of these landowners receive assistance with quail restoration and quail habitat. In 
addition to technical assistance, such as habitat-management planning, MDC provides about $500,000 in cost-share 
funds to private landowners that go directly to quail habitat needs. MDC also works with several partner organizations 
to help deliver an average of $280,000 in matching funds directly for quail needs. MDC staff help private landowners 
apply for more than $150 million in funds through USDA Farm Bill programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program 
and Conservation Buffers for Upland Birds. 

MDC supports more than 30 private-land quail focus areas (QFAs) throughout the state. QFAs were selected in areas 
where landowners were already managing for quail, near conservation areas with good quail habitat, and/or where 
conservation partners have expressed an interest in quail management. Many focus areas are around 30,000 acres in 
size, but some are even larger because of wide-spread landowner interest and success. Within focus areas, staff have 
been working with landowners to improve quail habitat by providing technical and financial assistance. Landowners 
within QFAs may be eligible for additional cost-share 
opportunities and services, such as loaner equipment to 
help create quail habitat. MDC also works with partner 
organizations, including Quail Unlimited, Quail and Upland 
Wildlife Federation, and Quail and Pheasants Forever, on 
quail restoration. Members of several quail cooperatives 
help each other improve wildlife habitat and involve youth 
with habitat projects and wildlife education. 

Get tips for developing a quail cooperative in your area 
from your local MDC private land conservationist (PLC). 
Your PLC can give you information about available 
incentives and cost-share programs and schedule a visit to 
evaluate and develop a plan to enhance the wildlife habitat 
on your property. For more information on quail 
management on private lands, click on the following link: 

http://mdc.mo.gov/landwater-care/animal-management/bird-management/quail . 




15 I M DC Quo i I & Pheasant Status Report 2012